Taking a dig at the Indian approach ahead of the Old Trafford Test, former England skipper Andrew Strauss has said that the visitors not only need more aggression but will also find it extremely difficult to win a Test match with four bowlers in their XI.
“I think India have a big problem if they are playing with only four bowlers. That is a mistake. I don’t think they can win matches with just four bowlers,” opined Strauss.
“I understand they want to select a team based on conditions and pitch. But considering those factors, they got it completely wrong at the Ageas Bowl. The pitch at Southampton has a reputation of turning towards the end of the match. So I was very surprised to see them not play R Ashwin there,” said Strauss.
Having a win under their belt at Lord’s, Mahendra Singh Dhoni and company decided to go with an extra batsman in the third Test at Rose Bowl. The hosts drew level the five-match series and Strauss was surprised by the moves of the Indian think tank.
“I was even more surprised that they decided to play an extra batsman and leave out Stuart Binny. It showed that they were negative and had a defensive mindset. They were trying not to lose the match and when you play with that outlook, more often than not, you will get beaten,” he added.
India lost by 266 runs at Southampton after earning a 95-run victory in the second Test and Strauss lauded the English effort.
“It was a good comeback from that Lord’s defeat. That was a bitter pill for England to swallow because everything was in their favour and they squandered that chance. So there was real pressure on them at Southampton and they put on a near-perfect performance.
“From the moment they won the toss and elected to bat, they put India under pressure. Their captain is back in form, Ian Bell is getting runs, James Anderson and Stuart Broad bowled better as well. It you have a perfect template of how to win a Test match, that was it,” said Strauss.
“With this new team that England have, it is evolving Test by Test and it is important for senior players to show junior players the way. Until this third Test, it was the other way round and that’s not ideal.
“It was the reason why England haven’t won more Test matches off-late and Lord’s was the final coffin. The senior players did their job in this third Test and I can tell you there will be a lot of confidence in their dressing room now,” he added.
Perhaps one of the pivotal moments of the Test – and indeed the series – was when Ravindra Jadeja dropped the beleaguered Cook on 15 and the opener went on to get 95 runs in the first innings.
He followed it up with a more fluent half-century in the second innings, signalling the end to his woeful form as well as a danger sign for India.
“Cook was under enormous pressure and it is hard to think of any England captain in recent times who was under more pressure. It was a combination of the team completely misfiring, his own poor form, and then his captaincy, because there was so much on his plate. But in Southampton, he was finally able to show why he is such a good cricketer.
I am delighted to see him come through that ordeal,” said the former England opener and Cook’s one-time partner at the top of the order.
If Cook is England’s most important batsman, then the same can be said of Virat Kohli. In his six innings on tour, the Delhi batsman has disappointed with scores of 1, 8, 25, 0, 39 and 28, averaging a paltry 16.83 so far.
“Kohli has the ability to take the game away from the opposition and he came into this series with a lot of expectations. People expected him to be the stand-out player but he has had some good deliveries and a bit of bad luck. It really hasn’t happened for him so far,” said Strauss.
“But at the same time, in certain instances like in Southampton, he should have played Moeen Ali a lot better. There are just not enough sizable contributions from Kohli and other batsmen to support Murali Vijay and Ajinkya Rahane at the moment,” Strauss pointed out.
The momentum seems to be with England and they are certainly buoyed by the fact that James Anderson escaped a ban for his alleged push against Jadeja as well and Strauss said its a positive sign.
“A lot of it rode on Anderson’s hearing. India would have been happy if he was banned no doubt, because England have relied so heavily on him. If he had been banned then it would have been 50-50 going into this fourth Test,” said Strauss.
“But with him playing on, and considering the Southampton win where England ticked so many boxes for things that went right for them, they will have a big spring in their step and will be tough to beat.
England are favourites to win at Old Trafford,” he signed off.